Clay County, Kentucky, resident Randy Wilson ran for the board of his electric cooperative on a platform of affordable energy, better energy choices, and good local jobs in 2009. Randy was the first person to oppose a sitting Jackson Energy board member since the co-op was founded in 1938. Before running for office, Randy was an active member of Kentuckians For the Commonwealth’s Canary Leadership Network, carrying a message throughout the region about the need to transition away from coal and towards clean energy.
When he decided to run, Randy learned he needed 500 signatures of local electric co-op members in order to get his name placed on the ballot—and he had only a few weeks to gather them. When a grassroots effort was mobilized to secure the signatures, canvassers found local people eager to hear and discuss Randy’s ideas about reform. Nearly everyone expressed concern over the rising cost of their electric bills.
Randy secured the 700 signatures needed and won a spot on the ballot. In the weeks leading up to the June 27 election, Randy’s supporters again turned out to knock on doors and talk to people in parking lots. They had many more great conversations about energy issues and transition.
Although Randy lost the election—his opponent used hundreds of proxy votes—his run was a wonderful leadership development opportunity and learning experience for KFTC as an organization. The response Randy got to his nomination, captured through hundreds of conversations about energy efficiency, renewable energy, and electric cooperative reform, is an indication of a growing hunger for change in the region and an affirmation of the power of grassroots organizing.